Unsatisfied By Average

The Musings of a Stubborn Believer

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Sophisticated Godliness (Or Is There No Such Thing?)

This time of year, I find myself having conversations with the guy in the mirror more than usual. (Ehem, that would be yours truly for those thrown off by my metaphors.) It probably has something to do with being born on October 20th, just a month and a few days before Thanksgiving. Both my birthday and Thanksgiving happen to be occasions when I stop to look behind me, to learn, to wonder, to listen. . .  And since they are only a month apart, the time between usually ends up being an overflow for the same.

At any rate.

One of my friends always asks on my birthday if I have any “new year’s resolutions.”

I do, yes. I do.

I start out down the well-beaten elk trail that leads in the general direction of my altar. The dog runs out in front, and I wonder if He’ll get it right. The summer’s monsoon (which I mostly missed for my travel schedule) has coaxed the grass to grow where my little personal trail should branch off of this one, so it’s basically gone. And anyway, does the dog even remember?

It’s midday, and other than the dog, I’m quite alone.

But obviously, he does remember. We get to the spot where my trail is supposed to be, and he cuts off. And I follow.

And when we get down there, he hesitates, glances at me as if to say, “whistle when you’re done if I’m not back yet” and trots off to do a bit more exploring.

And I stand there to do a bit of searching.

You know, if there’s one thing in greatest danger of getting a bit fuzzy by the time a frenzied summer is over, it’s the simple power of this.

I spend long days working, long nights praying, untold conversations trying to unravel human complications, and show how the gospel is enough. And the more sophisticated the human problems get, the more difficult it is.

Now I’m standing back where the rubber actually meets the road for me, and realizing this:

What I’m thirsty for, what my heart longs for, what I’m going to remember and keep remembering this year, is that regardless of how sophisticated human problems become, there is no such thing as “sophisticated godliness.” Godliness is “primitive.” It’s utterly basic. And therein lies it’s power. What I need, in the midst of a long grind to understand the complex psychological and neurological implications of addictions, and depression and OCD, and OCPD and Anxiety Disorder, is not a more complex gospel. 

It is a simpler one. 

The simple one I find here, in a cool little glen overlooking a little pile of rocks where I always find God waiting. 

It’s always here, after all, that the world comes to make the most sense.

The dog comes back, sits down. Seems to stare at the same things I’m staring at.

And I sigh and look up, and then get up, and whisper as I back away:

“I’ll be back. Let’s do this another year.”

On Why My Birthday Is My Favorite

Well, because it’s sister’s birthday.

I had to celebrate by myself for 11 years, and then I got this real reason to party. Of course, I didn’t find out about that reason until 16 or 17 years later. But, minor technicality. Hindsight is 20/20.

Now I do know. And I’ll be celebrating forever.

Happy Birthday, sweet Stina Bee.


“Surprise” is not the word I’m looking for.

Maybe “achingly beautiful, undeserved, unexpected, priceless gift?”

It is one thing to choose one’s siblings. It is another thing entirely when new siblings choose you.

Let’s climb another thousand hills together,

Let’s pray a thousand prayers beneath the stars

Let’s keep alive the dream He had before we saw the start. . .

We must believe the way He leads will sweeter be than memories,

Each dawn we’ll love you more than at last dark

Oh how we love your hearts.


Can I just say, in His presence is fullness of joy?

And at His right hand are pleasures forevermore?

I love so many things about these days. Mostly though, I love the fact that Jesus becomes dearer with every encounter. That every new gift comes wrapped with Him, filled with Him, delivered by Him. Hallelujah.

It is glory to be in Your presence, Your Grace. Glory to eat at Your table. Glory to be surprised day after day by the new and fresh ways You pour yourself into the hearts and lives of Your children. Glory to taste of your mercy over, and over, and over again. Such mercy it is, too; so deep. It is glory to see Your love lived out in such unselfishness, such sacrifice as is mine to behold every time I look at this gift.

Thank You.


Take The Pieces

“But I cannot, and what’s in my hand is proof. . .”


Like nails all awry, torn out of wood they were supposed to hold together. Their time cut short. Evidence that, you know, our skill isn’t what it should be, and our labors are not enough.

Not enough?

What if what He wanted when He asked for your open hand was not what’s in your hand, but the hand itself. What if He just wanted to hold it? To hold you? What if the reason He asked for the twisted bits is that He knew they were a burden, and He wanted to help you off with it? Wanted to curl His warm fingers around your cold ones, and couldn’t do it without hurting you if you still held shards within?

These pieces, whatever they look like, are good enough for Him. . .

Just give them away?

But You Are Chosen



This word carries behind in it the power to root my confidence like nothing else around.
The fact that we were born for a purpose, and then chose treason, seems to have been lost on the Powers that Be. It isn’t really, but let’s just say the story would probably have been different if that power had been you or me.

He doubles back on His creation-newly-turned-antagonists, and says through promise and action, 
I made you. I lost you. I choose you. I’ll buy you.

Have you ever stopped to think that if He had me you or me, throbbing with the power to create, and with an indominable hatred for sin, and an eternal love for things beautiful, He would’t have chosen? He might have just started clean over, and let the new planet learn from the old?

Yeah, but He isn’t. He’s not like you or me at all. He Is…

And therefore, He chose.

I choose too.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Always The Same

Dear Journal:

Considering the former, the promise of gracious deliverance from the lusts of the world, the pledge of “buildling up” into something spiritual and strong, and the power to become a miracle–

Unto you therefore which believe he is precious:

No brainer.

but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

First note: the opposite of “believer” isn’t “unbeliever.” Not here anyway. Belief is a safeguard against disobedience.

Second note: those who disbelieve (and therefore disobey) find themselves at odds with the same power the believers rejoice in. This is certainly the proverbial “short end of the stick.”

To all, He is the corner stone. His authority remains intact regardless of recognition.
To some, it is a precious stone.

To the rest, an offense.

It would be well to remember that the confidence or shame, the joy or pain, peace of frustration with which we relate to the Lord Glorious are indications of our position, not His. His mood never changes…

Remind me next time. If God at any moment seems less than gracious, the problem is mine.


Dear Journal,
Two things—

First, a notice that the greatest miracles (stones that are alive?!) in the history of the earth will always meet with the resistance of earth-dwellers. (Even as the Greatest Miracle did.) Either because they are afraid of them, or because they prefer to be in control. Or both.

Second, you and I have been invited to be the miracles in this generation.

“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up…

And not just to be a marvel. The idea is to be a link.

“…a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

And along with the responsibility (and the implied resistance) comes the promise that because the Corner Stone stood unmovable, the rest of the stones can too…

“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.”

I’m in.

Laying Aside

Dear Journal,

Therefore, lay aside

How often it is that the things we cling to as a means of survival, are actually pulling us beneath the waves.

“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings”

Laying aside all “badness,” that is, all depravity, all malignity, (the one, the root. The other, the fruit.)

Yeah, I get that there’s no life there. And we have more of both than we’d like to admit.

But the rest? These really hit close to home.

And all pretentions, all comparisons… (guile, hypocrisies, envies, evil speakings)
All omissions from the truth, pretending you aren’t what you are.
All additions to the truth, pretending you are what you aren’t.
All “envies”, as though you should be what someone else is.
All slanders, as though someone else should be what you are…

In short, any living for, or looking to, anybody except Him, is a snare.

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

Why Can’t They Think Like Me? [Maybe it isn’t an Ordination Crisis after all…]

My thoughts are divided between Africa, Africa, Africa, and my blog series on First Peter. Probably in that order. Hence the silence. But here I am. Halfway through an evangelistic effort in a dusty corner of beautiful Zimbabwe, and deeply moved.
In the west we sometimes think these people, (this continent?) primitive. Backward. Opressive. Old fashioned. I mean, mud huts? Really?

If only they were more like us… You know, valued the things we value. Paid more heed to women’s rights. Were a bit more theologically progressive. A bit more advanced. More contemporary. If only…

Come on, you’ve thought it too.

Hear me, because I’m only going to say this once.

I actually don’t think we have a point. Um… at all.

When our dying church in the west so much as shows up for anything outside of the church service;
when we sing like this over new souls saved;
when we come to church early and stay all day, eating nothing till the sun is done and gone;
when the deaconesses on duty can be recognized within seconds of stepping into the tent, not just by their presence, but the glory of their joy at serving;
when the elders take their role so seriously they are stopping what seems like constantly to join hands and pray, again;
when we have shared with enough neighbors that pratically every third hotel employee, taxi driver, and business man on downtown main street is one of us…
In short, when our lukewarm western church is operating with half of the fire common in the primitive corners of the world,
then we might have a point; a voice.

Until then, perhaps we should be examining our own hearts.

A recent report (which you’ve probably seen, so I won’t send them any more traffic) observed that the parts of the world most resistant to contemporary renderings of doctrine, and hermeneutics with a bit more cultural gloss are also the parts of the world where women are most generally repressed.
I don’t claim to be an expert on the worldwide realities of womens’ opportunites. And while I may have some personal (and professional) questions about our ability to even gather accurate statistics on the subject, this essay isn’t about spreading any such doubts.

I do, however, think that the above mentioned line of reasoning overlooks a very key fact. Namely, that the selfsame regions of the world are the only regions where both the quality, and the quantity of church membership shows explosive growth. While in all of the more progressive and “culturally sensitive” regions, church growth is slow, or in extreme cases, moving in the negative…
Is it possible that in our (western) quest for relevance and contemporary competency, we have actually lost something that would make us great in the world?

I do not mean to make light of the tragedy of failing to cherish either the lives, or the gifts of the women in our midst. It is strange fire that inspires a man to rise by crushing others underfoot— especially when that “other” (or “others”) is the only one (ones) capable of complimenting and completing His own work and service. It happens far, far too often. And truly, some cultures seem to blatantly sweep the issues under the rug. That it happens is not only unfortunately true, but also a testimony to the selfishness and pride of a race on course to destroy itself.

But I can honestly say, that while I certainly find myself in a “backwards corner” of the world, my evangelistic site cradled in a little villiage in the backcountry (with 400+ members in attendance, along with the visitors) shows no signs of such. Men and women serve together, and though their roles are distinct, they work with a harmony I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in the States. For what it’s worth…

But all that aside. I return to my former question.

Is it possible that in our (western) quest for relevance and contemporary competency, we have actually lost something that would make us great in the world?

Maybe the “backward” have as much to teach, as to learn…

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